This week I was doing a little consulting work for a private school on library facilities and programming. The school is remodeling it's loved, but dated, upper school library. The far-thinking leadership wants a facility that will meet the needs of a changing library and educational program including recognizing that every child will soon have a personal computing device, that learning is becoming social, that resources are going digital, and that hybrid classes may be both effective and economical.
A draft floor plan of the remodeled space had already been created before I visited. As I studied the CAD design, something eventually dawned on me: the new library would ONLY have casual seating - no tables, no chairs, no study carrels. While am just fine assigning carrels to the dust bin of educational history, I had to think about the lack of tables and chairs.
Will the school library need tables in the future? Does it need them today? Can everything be done sitting in casual, comfortable chairs?
I had to think about why people sit at tables in libraries:
- They spread out books and other materials while they take notes.
- They write, both on paper and on laptops sitting on the table.
- They work with others.
- They play board games.
- They are more easily supervised when taking tests, etc.
In a school where every child has a tablet or netbook and, say, 90% of the non-fiction and reference collection is digital, are these uses still relevant? Will kids need flat surfaces on which to work and play?
Think about this one before reacting instinctively. I've been having a tough time objectively finding a good reason. But I know I may be missing something.